Thursday, August 16, 2012

THINK TANKS: Nurturing Students' Capacity to Understand By Modeling the Self-Talk of Proficient Thinkers...and Marinating Students in Mentor Texts, Too!

The language that we choose to use with kids helps them create worlds—to imagine where they are, who they are, and what they're supposed to do. Feedback that judges pushes children to think of things as fixed—intelligence, ability, personality. Once they have a sense that those things are fixed and they can't do anything about them, then we're sunk.
Peter Johnston (2012), Opening Minds

The language we use in our classrooms helps to primes, prompts, and patterns our students' thinking.
Harvard University-Project Zero Researcher and Author Ron Ritchhart (2002), Intellectual Character

Thinking Strategy Self-Talk Research

P. David Pearson, Jan Dole, Gerald Duffy, Laura Roehler (1988; 1991; 1997; 2005); Richard Allington (1998);  Laura Benson (1993; 1997; 2000); Cris Tovani (2000);  Taffy Raphael (2000); Jeff Wilhelm (2001)

What do the Thinking Strategies sound like? 
How can we talk to ourselves to create understanding as we hear, read, view, write, and/or do?
How do proficient readers work to understand the texts they read, view, and hear?


Use existing knowledge to make sense of new information


Ask questions before, during,

& after reading


Draw inferences from the text

Check & Repair



their own


and use fix

up strategies

when they

get “stuck”


Identify important ideas in text


Integrate information to create new ideas and deeper understanding

This reminds me of…”

“This is like…”

“This is like ___ but not like ____ because…”

“I am connecting ____ to ____ because…”

“I wonder…”

“Why did they…?”

“I am curious about…”






“I bet…”

“I am guessing that ____


“I predict…”

“It seems like ___ and, so, I think that…”

“I infer…”

“I think…”

“I know…”

“I don’t get it.  I’d better read that again…”

“This was about…”

“I am confused…”

“I know that I know…”

“I learned…”

“This seems really important because…”

“A big idea I am taking from this text is…”

“The author wants me to consider...”

“Putting all this information together, I now know that…”

“In the beginning…and at the end…”

“Now I realize that…”

“I feel that ____ because…So, now I will…”

The Compass of Questions, The Energy of Inferring

As I read,/hear/view I work to...
      Probe, ask questions of the text/author and
      Infer meanings in and beyond the text

I talk to myself by Asking Questions and saying…
n “I wonder...”
n “I am curious about…”
n “A big question for me is…”
n  Journalist’s Questions:
         Why…?  How…?  What?  When…? Where…?
and by Making Predictions and Developing Inferences by saying…
n “I bet...”
n “I think that maybe…”
n “I’m predicting/guessing…”
n “The text doesn’t say this but I think/it seem like…”
n  “This is going to happen next because…”

A Study of Questioning
Self Talk of Strategy
            I wonder...
            I wonder...and I found out...
            I wonder...I found out...and/or I was surprised to find out...            Why...
            Turning the title into a question, I asked myself ___________ as I read.  Why...
            I am curious about...
Prompts for Questioning
What are you wondering?
Take me to your “I wonders...”  Tell me about your thinking here.
What are you curious about?
Tell me about the questions you created while you read _____.
What questions did you answer as you read _______?
What did you learn as you read _______?  How did your questions help you?     
Do you have any unanswered questions?  Oh, goody.  Let’s talk about those.
Did you create a question from the title?  How did it help you understand this

Books for Strategy Study of Questioning:
          Auto Mechanic, An by Douglas Florian
          Because of Winn Dixie by Kate Dicamillo
          Boy of a Thousand Faces, The  by Brian Selznick
          Brave Potatoes by Toby Speed
          Case of the Climbing Cat, The by Cynthia Rylant
          Charlie Anderson by Barbara Abercrombie
          Chicken Sunday by Patricia Polacco
          Come Back, Salmon… by Molly Cove
          Composition, The by Antonio Skarmeta
          Crazy World of What If, The by Steve Parker
          Dogs Don’t Tell Jokes by Louis Sachar
          Dragon in the Cupboard by Karen Dolby
          Fernando’s Gift/El Regalo De Fernando by Douglas Keister
          Fly Away Home by Eve Bunting
          Forest Has Eyes, The by Bev Doolittle and Elise Maclay
          From The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg
          Giggler Treatment, The by Roddy Doyle
          Giver, The by Lois Lowery
          Guess What? by Mem Fox
          Holes by Louis Sachar
          Hooray for Wodney Wat by Helen Lester
          Ink Drinker, The  by Ric Sanvoisin
          I Wonder by Tana Hoban
          Jeremiah Learns To Read by Jo Ellen Bogart
          Jerusalem Shining by Karla Kuskin
          Jigsaw by Miriam Moss
          Library Lil by Suzanne Williams
          Lion’s Share, The  by Chris Conover
          Magic Treehouse Series by Mary Pope Osborn
          Meet Danitra Brown by Nikki Grimes
          My Name is Georgia by Jeannette Winter
          My Teacher’s Secret Life by Stephen Krensky
          Number The Stars by Lois Lowry
          Picture Book of Harriet Tubman, A by David Adler
          Post Office Book, The by Gail Gibbons
          Snowmen at Night by Caralyn Buehner
          Someday Today by Bert Kitchen
          Spectacular Science by Lee Bennett Hopkins
          Super Dog:  The Heart of a Hero by Caralyn Buehner
          Super Dooper Jezebel by Tony Ross
          Truman’s Aunt Farm by Jama Kim Rattigan
          Water’s Journey, The by Eleanor Schmid
          When Will I Read? by Miriam Cohen
          Whipping Boy, The by Sid Fleischman
          Who Needs Birds When Dogs Can Fly? by Fay Robinson
          Wolf  by Becky Bloom
          Words by Heart by Quida Sebestyen

Wordless Picture Books such as Carl’s Christmas by Alexander Day and Pancakes by Tomie dePaola
Books in Spanish such as ?Que hay Para Comer? by Shelley Harwayne are published by Mondo Press.  A bibliography of children’s’ books in Spanish can be found in Connie Weaver’s Practicing What We Know, p. 436 – 438 and I have included several in the Monitoring text set.
Mysteries and fantasy books always work well for cultivating questioning.
Nonfiction texts are born from questions.  Authors often write to answer their own questions.  Thus, these texts work well to help children become more conscious of the importance of questioning as readers and writers.

~ Question Quest ~

My questions:

My answers and discoveries:

I wonder...

I found out...

Compass Questions
Asking questions is helping me...

A Study of Inferring

            I bet...
            I knew it...
            I bet...I knew it...and/or I was surprised to learn...
            I am guessing that...
            I sense...
            I predict...
            I think...
            Filling in the blanks here, I think the author means...

Prompting Inferences:
To cultivate children’s’ inferring, I prompt their self talk by nudging them with the following words as I confer with each child and meet with them in large and small group nests:
            Tell me about your “I bets...” and “I knew its...”
            Tell me about your “I bet...”  here.  Where did this become an
                        “I knew it.” or an “I was surprised to learn.”
            What will happen next? or What will you learn next?
            What do you think this will be about? How do you know that?
            Was there a part where you had to infer?  Tell me about that. 
Like listening to me talk on the telephone, take me to a place in your
reading where you had to figure out what the author was saying on your own?
            Do you like the main character(s)?  Why or why not?
            Would the main character make a good friend?  Why or why not?
The author won’t tell us everything.  They trust us to figure some things
on our own.  Take me to a place in your reading where you had to figure out what was happening on your own.
            What can you predict from this chapter title/heading?

Books to Share with Students to Cultivate Inferring:
Adoff, Arnold                      Love Letters
Agee, Jon.                              The Incredible Painting of Felix Clousseau
Allard, Harry.                       Miss Nelson Is Missing
Alexander, M.                      You’re a Genius, Blackboard Bear                
Asch, Frank.                         Bear Shadow
Avery, Charles.                    Everybody Has Feelings/Todos Tenemos Sentimientos

Babcock, Chris          .           No Moon, No Milk
Baker, Leslie.                        The Third Story Cat
Banotuk, Nick.                     Griffin and Sabine; Sabine’s Notebook
Baylor, Byrd.                         I’m In Charge of Celebrations
Bellairs, John.                       The Mummy, The Will, and The Crypt
Bleguard, Lenore                 Anna Banana and Me
Bluthenthal, Diana C.         I’m Not Invited
Briggs, Raymond.                Jim and the Beanstalk
Brighton, Catherine.             Five Secrets in a Box
Brookfield, Karen.               Eyewitness series
Bunting, Eve                        All her titles work well
Calhoun, Mary.                    Hot Air Henry
Cohen, Miriam.                    First Grade Takes A Test
Cooney, Barbara.                 Miss Rumphius
Conrad & Shulz                   Snoopy’s Guide to the Writing Life
Crew & Smith                      Troy Thompson’s Excellent Peotry Book
Crews, Donald.                    Big Mama’s
Crews, Donald.                    Freight Train
Dakos, Kalli.                         If You’re Not Here, Please Raise Your Hand
Day, Alexandra                    Carl the Dog series
DeBrunhoff, L.                     Babar’s Mystery
DePaola, Tomie                    The Knight and the Dragon
DePaola, Tomie                    Pancakes for Breakfast
DePaola, Tomie                    Watch Out for the Chicken Feet in Your Soup
DeRegiers, B. S.                    May I Bring A Friend?
Dragonwagon, C.                Always, Always
Dragonwagon, C.                Home Place
Duke, Kate.                           Aunt Isabel Tells A Good One
Duke, Kate.                           Guinea Pigs Far and Near
Fandex.                                  American Indians; Dogs; Presidents
Feelings, Tom.                      Soul Looks Back In Wonder                          
Fleischman, Paul                 Joyful Noise
Fleming, Denise.                  In a Small, Small Pond
Fleming, Denise.                  In the Tall, Tall Grass
Fleming, Denise.                  Lunch
Foreman, Michael.               The Angel and the Wild Animal
Fox, Mem.                            Guess What?
Fox, Mem.                             Time for Bed
Freeman, Don.                     Corduroy
George, K. O.                       The Great Frog Race
Gibbons, Gail                        All her titles
Giovanni, Nikki.                  Spin A Soft Black Song
Golenbock, Peter.                Teammates
Graves, Don.                         Baseball, Snakes, and Summersquash
Green, Donna.          .           My Little Artist
Greenfield, Eloise.               In The Land of Words:  New & Selected Poems
Grimes, Nikki.                      It’s Raining Laughter
Gwynne, Fred                      Chocolate Moose for Dinner
Gwynne, Fred .                    The King Who Rained
Gwynne, Fred                      A Little Pigeon Toad
Hopkins, Lee B.                    Good Books, Good Times
Howe, James.                       Celery Stalks at Midnight
Howe, James.                       A Night Without Stars
Hughes, Langston.              All his poems; The Dream Keeper and Other Poems
James, Simon.                       Dear Mr. Blueberry
Johnson, Dolores.                Your Dad Was Just Like You
Keats, Ezra Jack.                  The Snowy Day
Lionni, Leo.                           Broderick
Lionni, Leo.                           Swimmy
Little, Jean .                           Hey, World!  Here I Am!
Lucado, Max.                        You Are Special
Macaulay, David.                 Black and White
Macaulay, David.                 Motel of the Mysteries
MacLachlan, P.                     Sarah Plain and Tall
MacLachlan, P.                     What You Know First
Maclay, Emily.                     The Forest Has Eyes
MacDonald, Amy.               Little Beaver and the Echo
Marshall, James.                  George and Martha series
Meyer, Mercer.                     A Boy, A Dog, and A Frog
Moon, Pat.                             Green Lines: Poems for The Green Age        
Parrish, Peggy.                     Amelia Bedelia series
Paulsen, Gary.                      Hatchet
Pfister, Marcus.                    Rainbow Fish
Rylant, Cynthia.                   A Fine White Dust
Rylant, Cynthia.                   Every Living Thing
Rylant, Cynthia.                   The Relatives Came
Sandford, Lyne.                   Ten Second Rainshowers
Saunders-Smith, Gail.         All her titles
Schertle, Alice.                     A Lucky Thing
Schertle, Alice.                     Keepers
Sendak, Maurice.                 In Grandpa’s House
Sharmat, M.                          A Big Fat Enormous Lie
Steptoe, John.                       The Story of Jumping Mouse
Soto, Gary.                            A Summer Life
Turner, Ann.                         The Hedgehog for Breakfast
Turner, Pat.                           Katie’s Trunk
Van Allsburg, C.                  All titles!
Viorst, Judith.                       Alexander Who Use To Be Rich Last Tuesday
Wilhelm, Hans                     All For The Best!  The Secret of Happiness
Wood, Douglas.                   Rabbit and the Moon
Worth, Valerie.                     All the small poems and fourteen more
Yolen, Jane.                           The Mary Celeste:  An Unsolved Mystery From History   
Young, Ed.                            Seven Blind Mice

Thoughtful reading is only rarely a matter of flashy insight. 
More often it is a gradual, groping process.
Dennie Palmer Wolf
Mentor Texts

To model and demonstrate thinking strategies for students, to practice thinking strategies collaboratively with students, and to engage students in focused practice of a specific thinking strategy or strategies, the following texts help to illustrate each type of thinking for growing readers.  In truth, you can model any and all thinking strategies with any book from your classroom library.  Thus, there is no magic list of mentor texts…I just find these books especially supportive in offering more of an exaggerated thinking strategy experience for students…and these lists are ever evolving!  As Shelley Harwayne share with me years ago, any bibliography we write becomes obsolete about 30 minutes after we finish writing it because we are constantly discovering new books.  Please add your titles here and I will revise our book lists to keep our “master list” as up-to-date as possible J.

Please note:  For ease of accessing these titles in your school or public library and/or to search for them in you favorite book store’s website, the book lists are organized alphabetically by the author’s last name.
Happy reading, happy mentoring!
Laura Benson

Mentor Texts for a Study of Questioning
*In response to current requests, here are some of my favorite books to help students study the compass of questioning.  Additional mentor texts will be posted soon!

Charlie Anderson by Barbara Abercrombie

Amelia’s Road by Linda Altman

America the Beautiful by Katherine Bates

Grandfather Twilight by Barbara Berger

Grandmother Winter by Barbara Berger

If Sarah Will Take Me by Bouchard

A Day’s Work by Eve Bunting

Fly Away Home by Eve Bunting

How Many Days to America? by Eve Bunting

The Wall by Eve Bunting

The Wednesday Surprise by Eve Bunting

Lost in the Sun by Carrick

Grandpa’s Teeth by Clement

Big Al by Andrew Clements

Call Me Ahnighito by Pam Conrad

Weslandia by Paul Fleischman

How My Parents Learned to Eat by Friedman

My Father’s Boat by S. Garland

The Lotus Seed by Sherry Garland

Monarch Butterfly by Gail Gibbons

Why is the Sky Blue? by Sally Gindley

“Keepsake” by Eloise Greenfield

How Smudge Came by Nan Gregory

Tight Times by Hazen

The Day of Ahmed’s Secret by Heide and Gilliland

The Librarian Who Measured the Earth by Lasky

Storm Boy by Paul Owen Lewis

The Island of Skog by S. Kellog

UFO Diary by Satoshi Kitamura

The Slave Ship to Freedom Road by J. Lester

Knots on a Counting Rope by Bill Martin, Jr.

The Potato Man by Megan McDonald

Journey Home by McKay

The Wise Woman and her Secret by Eve Merriam

The Three Questions by Muth

Elizabeth by Claire Nivola

My Freedom Trip by Park

Wump World by B. Peet

Appelemando’s Dream by Patricia Polacco

Pink and Say by Patricia Polacco

Best Christmas Pagaent Ever by Robinson

All I See by Cynthia Rylant

An Angel for Solomon Singer by Cynthia Rylant

Something Permanent by Cynthia Rylant

The Van Gogh Café by Cynthia Rylant

Grandfather’s Journey by Alan Say

Abiyoyo by Pete Seeger

The Amazing Bone by William Steig

Brave Irene by William Steig

Dr. DeSoto by William Steig

Gorky Rises by William Steig

Solomon and the Rusty Nail by William Steig

Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig

“Windy Nights” by Robert Louis Stevenson

Mailing May by Turner

Nettie’s Trip South by Turner

The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg

The Stranger by Chris Van Allsburg

Sector 7 by Wiesner

Tuesday by Wiesner

Freedom Summer by Deborah Wiles

How Come? by Kathy Wollard

The Mary Celeste by Jane Yolen

No comments: